The Macedonian political system envisages the parliamentary representative democratic republic. The country has been a candidate to become the European Union member since 2005. However, when it comes to implementation of human rights standards the country falls short in certain areas. This is especially case when it comes to the protection and implementation of human rights of vulnerable and marginalized communities in the society. For example, the status of the Roma and the LGBTIQ communities suffers from a high level of intolerance, hate speech, exclusion and discrimination. In majority of cases these communities remain largely unprotected by the state institutions.
Nevertheless, the civil society and human rights organizations in Macedonia work actively in combating these issues by providing their expertise and knowledge. The civil society in Macedonia usually acts as a watchdog over the state institutions and oversees and monitors the implementation of policies and laws that directly affect vulnerable groups in the society and provides solutions to these policies. This article, therefore, outlines the most active think tanks and active human rights organizations across Macedonia.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia is a non-governmental organization that serves to promote and protect human rights, without any political or religious connotation. The goal of the organization is to increase the awareness about human rights and basic freedoms as set out in the Universal Declarations for Human Rights as well as other international covenants on civil, political, social and cultural rights. It aims to build democratic conditions in which these rights and freedoms can be exercised. The Committee actively monitors the implementation of human rights mechanisms in the country, provides legal assistance to citizens who have been victims of the human rights and freedoms violations and cooperates with state auhorities in order to increase the respect of human rights. The organization’s vision is that all people should have a possibility to exercise their basic human rights and freedoms as well as to be given an opportunity to protect them in cases of violation.
The EGAL (Equality for Gays and Lesbians) was founded in 2003 by a group of enthusiasts who recognized a need for undertaking actions in order to the tackle the situation of expanding gay community in Macedonia. The organization was formed to work solely on gay and lesbian related issues while focusing on health related LGBTIQ issues. The mission of EGAL is to improve sexual health and quality of living of the LGBTIQ population in Macedonia while overcoming homophobia in Macedonian society through promotion of LGBTIQ culture and development of their sexual and psycho-social health.
The HERA was established in 2000 by a group of students in order to promote the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights in national legislation and strategies of Macedonia. Ever since its establishment the HERA recognized the need to integrate HIV activities and services into sexual and reproductive health provisions. Today the HERA is a leading non-governmental organization working in the field of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights by providing around 2.600 women (mostly Roma women) with health, social and legal services on annual basis. The organization also focuses on national and international advocacy related to right-based policies and programs on HIV and sexual and reproductive health. It particularly advocates for sexuality education and women’s right to choose and access safe abortion services.
The Reactor is a think tank organization based in Macedonia’s capital Skopje. This think tank is committed to facilitating Macedonia’s EU integration process by providing relevant research and proposing evidence-based policy alternatives. Since it is envisaged as a policy-oriented research organization, the core of the Reactor’s activities is conducting research. The organization’s goal is to provide relevant, up to date data with a purpose on informing on the policy process in the country. The main areas of research are the gender equality, youth and the urban development.
The NRC advocates for the promotion and protection of the human rights with a particular focus on representing the interests of the members of the Roma community in Macedonia. The organization’s vision is tolerant and participatory society that offers equal access to the rights for all and improvement of the quality of life. The NRC advocates for the creation of public policies, acts an agent in providing equal access to the rights and as a promoter in the application of European values through field work, research, initiatives and public debates for changes in legislation and policies. The strategic goals of the NRC include promotion of human rights, advocacy for equal representation of members of the Roma community in all state structures, promotion of effective anti-discrimination legislations as well as campaigning against discrimination, racism, xenophobia and segregation. The organization also provides free legal assistance to socially vulnerable citizens, victims of domestic violence and single parents regardless of their ethnicity.
The Open Gate is an organization for action against violence and human trafficking. The organization has been active for the past 14 years and it was established when a group of women enthusiasts expressed their concern for the growing crime of human trafficking in Macedonia and decided they want to help prevent this crime by establishing the organization. The Open Gate is dedicated in combating human trafficking on national and international level through La Strada network (a network of European non-governmental organizations that combat human trafficking) and it is active in conducting lobbying activities and advocacy as well as providing assistance and support to the victims of human trafficking. Since 2005 the organization provided accommodation, medical, legal and psycho-social support and assistance for 102 victims of human trafficking. The organization manages the only SOS telephone line in the country, which is designed to inform, prevent and intervene in cases of human trafficking. The SOS telephone line registered 4.086 callers until today, who provided the organization with valuable information and advice.
The SCOOP is a non-governmental organization aimed to promote, stimulate and support investigative journalism. The goal of the organization is to support journalists in their work by providing professional and financial help. The SCOOP promotes and stimulates the development of investigative journalism in Macedonia and wider. The organization sees the investigative journalism as a tool that can be used to fight organized crime and corruption, strengthen the democratic capacities and improve the professional traits of journalism. The organization is composed of a group of experienced and professional journalists whose mission is to use investigative journalism in order to decrease corruption and improve lives of citizens of Macedonia by ensuring good governance, transparent institutions and protection of human rights. Alongside the investigative journalism, the organization also organizes variety of seminars, conferences and lectures for journalists across the country.
The Coalition was founded in 2007 as an independent non-governmental organization by several Macedonian organizations (Healthy Options Project Skopje, HERA, Strumica and EGAL). The Coalition promotes protection and respect of the rights of marginalized communities, with a special focus on LBTIQ persons, drug users, persons affected with HIV, sex workers and marginalized women. The core of the Coalition’s activities are advocacy, research, analysis and inclusion of these marginalized communities in the creation and implementation of the policies that affect them. The Coalition advocates for the stronger participation of marginalized communities in the struggle for implementation of their rights and freedoms by establishing and providing supportive environment in which equality, freedom and respect of sexual differences are seen as core values.